Monday, April 30, 2012

Change is good

Happy Monday, all....hope you had a good weekend, doing what you like to do when you're not at work.

Something my wife and I like to do is to shake things up a little bit here at the ranch.  That might mean some new placemats for the kitchen table, or something equally minor.  We've been talking a bit recently about a new kitchen table, owing to the confined space that our kitchen dining area allows.  We replaced an older one a few years ago, but, that one, too, was a little too wide for the space.  So we've been talking about that.

A few months ago, we decided to modernize our bedroom.  Out went the old box-style television ("but it still has a good picture," I argued) and the stand upon which it lived, and in its place a sleek 32" ultra-thin LED model.  Nice, right?  Only problem was that I simply couldn't justify spending the additional $15 per month for an HDTV cable box, so we were watching an analog signal on this new TV.  And what's worse, because it's ultra-thin, so are the speakers, so it sounds a lot like a transistor radio.  Summing up, we have been disappointed by this foray into technology upgrades.

If you've visited here previously, you know of my fondness for Apple products, and my latest yearning was for an iMac, the all-in-one desktop computer.  Sleek, extremely vivid display, and it's a Mac.  But I really couldn't justify that expense, since I just bought a Macbook Air last summer and a new iPad recently, too.

Anyway, Saturday night my wife and I were talking about redoing our bedroom and NOT including a television.  My thought was that it's only about fifteen feet from our bed to the living room, where our main TV resides.  She agreed, and asked what I planned to do with the LED TV that was there.  "I'm going to see if I can use it as an external monitor for the Macbook Air," I responded confidently.  

So yesterday after church I changed into old clothes and headed to the attic.  My mission was to retrieve the mirror and mounting brackets that go with our dresser, since I had removed them for this modern television marvel.  Within 45 minutes I had restored our dresser (a very traditional model that matches our bed and nightstands, the first significant purchase of our now-nearly-26-year marriage) and carted LED TV to my office.

Boy, it really looks big on your desk, doesn't it?  my wife offered.  I nodded, but decided to see how this would work and found some simple instructions online for what to do to operate your Macbook Air with the lid closed and an external monitor, keyboard and mouse (the latter two I already was using), and off I went to find the video adapter that would make it all work together.

Got the adapter, connected everything, and here I sit in front of a 32 inch monitor.  Kinda nice, actually.

I don't know if I'd recommend this kind of shuffling of items and furniture positions to everyone, but it works for us.  It did this time, anyway.

Wish us luck on the kitchen table......


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Road wearier

I'm home, and thank God for that.  Between business travel and a week of vacation in late March, I've been on the road every week for, oh, I don't even know how long.

I'm scheduled for a week at home next week.  For now, but that could change.

And I will try very hard here and now NOT to fill this space with rants about how awful it is to travel, etc.  You get that.  From me, often here.

Let's just say that some people that I encounter in my extensive travels don't play well with others.  Rude, inconsiderate, ignorant of the rules and generally making the act of traveling much harder for all.

But I don't want to discuss that.

I'd like to discuss the nicer folks I've encountered over the past few weeks.  Like the desk clerk at the Marriott in Columbia, SC this week....she absolutely could not have been more helpful, and she clearly sensed that I was pretty wiped out by the time I got to her hotel.  Thanks.

Or the ticket counter agent at Delta Airlines in my home airport in Lexington, who apologized for not seeing me sooner when I dropped my bag off to be checked.  I was standing there about ten seconds, and yet he apologized.  Nice.

Or the delightful server my group and I encountered at Mary Mahoney's, a traditional restaurant in Biloxi, Mississippi where I hosted a mixed group of colleagues, clients and others.  Our server was a very personable young woman who didn't appear sturdy enough to handle the large trays of food she and other kept bringing to us.

By the way, if you like coastal cuisine, I highly recommend the restaurant above.  Founded in the late 1700's, the place has endured many storms and hurricanes (watermarks displayed prominently marking the occasions) and keeps on going.  The room where our party was seated was just reopened this spring, having been closed following Katrina.

Back to my courtesy shout-outs.  Let's give one to one of the administrative coordinators at the recent Mississippi Workers' Compensation Educational Conference, where my company was exhibiting.  For some reason she didn't have my name recorded as an attendee, but, no problem, she corrected that and produced my very own printed name tag.  Other events could and should take lessons from them.

And while we're at it, my wife and I dined out on Sunday, and were served by a very friendly fellow who was uber-efficient and courteous to the end.  We'll ask for him again.

So, you see, good customer service and common courtesy isn't gone yet.  But it's scarce.




Thursday, April 12, 2012

Yardage

Finally broke down yesterday and bought a new lawn mower.  I've resisted this "investment" for some time, choosing instead (and perhaps unwisely) to keep our old one going with every-two-years visits to the hardware store for the fabled spring tuneup.  These procedures allegedly changed the engine oil, sharpened the blades and did a general cleanup of our old mower.

We bought the old item at Sears when we bought our house sixteen years ago this month.  Paid way more than I ever thought sane at the time...for a lawn mower, of all things.  But it served us well, until this and that stopped working as intended, and the bagger has a couple of little holes, and the cable attached to the safety catch on the handle was stretched, causing the mower to kind of lurch up and down the power spectrum.

So my wife and I visited Sears a couple of evenings ago, and looked at their mowers.  Three-fourths of the push mowers are now self-propelled, don't you know, but I have a relatively small yard, and, having used our son's self-propelled model to mow his pasture, I'm just not that comfortable with something that drives itself to any extent.

That reduced our selection down to about eight mowers, and despite apparent improvements in the technology, I just couldn't bring myself to buy an electric mower, whether corded or rechargeable, so that reduced our selection down to about five possibilities.  When I was a kid we had a neighbor who had one.  Strange sounding, quit all the time, didn't cut the yard well, so that was a no go.

So was a manual mower.  Yes, just like "Leave it to Beaver," you can still buy a manual reel-type mower.  Never used one, not planning to start now, regardless of how small the yard is.

So we looked at the five players, threw out a couple that didn't mulch the grass (way better than bagging or side discharge) and settled on one with a big engine that allegedly starts without priming or choking.  Bought it last night.

The clerk told me that I'd need to buy oil, which I did, but the mower came with the required amount, so that will go back to Sears at some point.  Anyway, when I unboxed the thing it actually took me about twenty minutes to assemble and position the handle, of all things.  The rest of the mower was already assembled, thank God.

So, handle in place, added the included bottle of motor oil, gassed it up, and, wouldn't you know, it started on the first pull.  Impressive.  Smooth, powerful, far less noisy than the old mower (more on old Bessie below).  Mowed the front under the watchful eye of my wife, who approved heartily of the finished product.

Then I went to mow the back yard.....and the mower wouldn't fit through our gate.  I tried several different approaches, but the new model is just a tad wider than the old one.  So I did what any right-thinking American male would do....I removed the gate, temporarily, and mowed the back yard.  We discussed the gate, which is cedar and in poor condition anyway, and we'll replace it with something that will allow the new machine through the passageway.

Before I mowed the back, I pulled our old mower out, rolled it to the curb and used the leafblower to remove the clippings from the driveway and sidewalk.  When I returned to the front of the house to put the new mower away, a cable TV company van stopped in front of the house.  I think I've mentioned here before that we are the lucky folks who have the neighborhood cable junction in our backyard, so the cable company visits periodically to reconnect something or other.

Anyway, the driver gets out, and I say to him something silly about having cut another neighbor's cable while mowing, and he laughed, but then asked if this was my lawn mower (the old one).  I said it was, and he asked if I was getting rid of it.  I explained that I was, and that I was just about to put a "free" sign on it.  Does it run, he asked, and I assured him that it did, but not that great.  Turns out he tinkers with small engines as a hobby and was happy to take it off my hands.  Problem solved.

Except the gate, of course.  Have to think of something for that little issue.  For now, it's hanging by two bolts, so I can remove it in a minute's time.  Just don't want to have to.

So if you drive by my house sometime soon and hear some strange noises, that'll be me, trying to fix or replaced that damned gate.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

The week that was (no, LAST week)

Greetings, friends, long time, no write.  Been a little busy.  Oh, not with work, at least not THAT busy.

No, my wife and I returned to Kentucky (home of the 2012 NATIONAL CHAMPION KENTUCKY WILDCATS) last Sunday from our travel-by-car vacation to Colorado to visit our daughter's family for a week and to spend some quality time with our older granddaughter on her spring break week!

Quite a trip, I must say.  It had been almost seven years since we had driven out to Colorado (the year our granddaughter was born actually), and a few things changes along the way and in our daughter's adopted home area:

There are now more gas stations along I-70 in Kansas, but there are still significant stretches without services, which is enough to cause most anyone sweaty palms if they didn't fill up sooner.

We never paid $4 per gallon for gas.  But we DID pay $3.99 9/10 per gallon twice, which is just as bad.

Some enterprising soul (or two or six or fifteen) in Kansas has decided to construct a wind farm, which makes a great deal of sense, since the wind is pretty constant on the high plains.  Plus it gives the bored motorist and his passengers something to look at during the trip.

There are still lots of people who shouldn't drive on interstate highways until they pass a proficiency examination.

Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City is still the BEST barbecue I've had.  Anywhere.  Ever.  But there's a place in Parker, CO called the Hickory House (with locations in Aspen and Florida) that's also pretty darned good.

The Denver area has a LOT of great parks, museums, a wonderful zoo and lots more to offer.  Other municipal governments could learn a thing or two....

This was my first trip to the Denver area for any reason where significant stretches of I-25 within the Denver metro area weren't disrupted by road construction.

I love Tony's in Castle Rock.  Best meat market (and specialty grocery) I've yet visited.  And the butchers there know what they're doing and what they're talking about, too.

Watching a meaningful Kentucky basketball game away from home just isn't as much fun.

Well, duty calls, as I have a conference call to attend before boarding a flight for Atlanta, and then homeward from there.



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